Reading Comprehension: Teaching the Literary Elements of Narrative Stories Through Students' Personal Lives-Part 2
Timothy G. Weih, Ph.D.
University of Northern Iowa, USA
September 2016

Note: This is the second part of a two part article.

Assessing and Evaluating Students' Work

It is very important that teachers assess and evaluate students WHILE they're actually doing the work for the strategy for the sake of helping them and reteaching on the spot as necessary and to keep students from getting off-track, getting confused, and becoming frustrated with each other or the work that they are doing.

As the teacher circulates among the students while they are working, he scans their papers to see if they are following the directions, correctly identifying the main elements of the Story Face, and guiding students as necessary. If it appears that many of the students are confused, the teacher should stop their work and reteach any problem areas.

When students have completed their Story Faces and accompanying compositions, the papers are collected and evaluated for the students' strengths and weaknesses. Students who need additional reteaching are identified and retaught.

Modifications for Students with Special Needs

It is crucial that students be placed into diverse, collaborative teams so that they can draw from each other's strengths. Additional accommodations can be made for students with special needs such as the following:
• Give students a pre-made Story Face map or worksheet with all the main parts labeled, rather than have them make their own, in which they simply fill in the answers.
• Instead of students thinking totally from scratch to come up with their own personal story problem, the teacher leads them with a brain-storming, whole class activity and records a large list of common problems students have faced on the classroom screen. Students then pick and choose which ones apply to them.
• Students may get lost in the directions for completing the Story Face, so pre-printed directions could be passed out to them.

Model and Guided Practice with Book Text

The use of the students' own personal stories is an adaptation of the Language Experience Approach (Allen, 1976) in which the students' own words, stories, and experiences are used for learning literacy. This approach, in itself, is a modification that makes it easier for students to learn literacy. Once students have successfully mapped out and written their own personal narratives, then it's time to make the transition of applying the strategy using a text or book story. The best type of book to begin with is a picture book because they use very few words to get across meaning, and the pictures will lend further understanding of the story along with highlighting the literary elements to the students.

For modeling, the teacher reads aloud a picture book with students either following along with copies of the same book in front of them, or the book displayed on the classroom screen. After the read aloud, the teacher displays a Story Face on the classroom screen and calls on student volunteers to supply the main parts of the story.

During guided practice, teachers have the collaborative literacy teams work together to Story Map a picture book with each team doing a different book. This procedure should be done with at least three different books during three assignments.

Assessment and Evaluation of Independent Work

Assessment and evaluation is a recursive practice that occurs throughout the teaching process (see Weih, 2015a). When students have demonstrated from their work they understand the Story Face strategy and can comprehend the main parts of narrative stories, then it's time to separate students from their collaborative literacy teams and assign them individual work in story mapping a picture book using the strategy. Students should have at least three assignments with individual mapping work with three different picture books.
The maps are collected and examined for student strengths and weakness. Students who need additional work in the strategy are identified and retaught.

Extending the Strategy

When students have become successful at mapping out picture book stories, then it is time to extend the Story Face strategy using short, easy to read chapter books. Following the procedure outlined with picture books, students map out individual chapters in a book rather than an entire book. Point out to students that most narrative chapter books have clearly defined literary elements within each chapter, even if some are repeated. Characters face multiple problems played out in each chapter as they deal with an overarching major problem. Each chapter represents a piece of the puzzle that completes a larger, more complex story than typically found in a picture book. After a few assignments of this nature, most students will have internalized the concepts of how narrative stories are structured and mapping will no longer be a necessary tool.

Additional Benefits for Students

The strategy of Story Face holds many literacy benefits for students. As students work to solve the Story Face, they become engaged in writing, reading, discussing, and thinking about the content of narrative stories, thereby increasing their overall reading comprehension, which can lead to enhanced reading enjoyment and a reciprocal rise in writing fluency.
Moreover, students realize that they have their own personal stories that they can connect with when reading or writing narrative text.

Beginning with the stories that all students have in their lives for teaching literacy promotes the idea to students that their lives are important, have meaning, and can be background knowledge for learning language in the elementary classroom. Rather than drawing from the reading of a book, which some students may or may not be able to read, understand, or relate to, the application of students' own language experiences levels the playing field, giving ALL students the opportunity to fully participate.


Weih, T. G. (2015a). Assessment and evaluation of content literacy for grades K-6 (parts one and two).

Weih, T. G. (2015b). Literature-based content writing instruction for grades K-3.

Copyright © 2016 Timothy G. Weih, Ph.D.
University of Northern Iowa, USA

About Author / Additional Info:
Timothy G. Weih is an associate professor of education at the University of Northern Iowa, USA, and teaches elementary teaching methods courses.